Dear Ellie: My husband died suddenly in an accident. We spent most of our time together: bike riding, walking, each of us working from home mornings, going out for lunches, shopping, cooking dinners, attending various events, reading and traveling, before COVID.
Suddenly, I find the silence oppressive and the days empty. Something has to change! What do you suggest?
Lonely and Lost
You have a strong inner voice directing you to make changes, and recognize that it’s a need you can’t neglect.
The togetherness that you and your husband shared didn’t just depend on him.
It’s clear from your account that you were equally active, both engaged in work, careers or community projects.
So, too, you shared household tasks and other domestic needs. Add in attending events and travelling together, and it’s also evident that you’re a social being.
Though your loss is heavy and still painful, it’s clear that you’ve reached the point of putting one foot after the other to find activities and sociability that you can share with others — whether a friend, family member, community activity, fitness group, etc. (depending on COVID).
If your close and busy life as a couple left little room/time for having a “best friend” beyond your husband, consider building new friendships, whether just one person or a couple of friends for particular interests e.g., online bridge or a book club, etc.
It can happen through any of the activities above that appeal to you, or with a neighbour, or a relative you like but previously hadn’t seen much when you were occupied in a busy relationship.
If you haven’t considered joining a grief therapy program, that may have been your initial choice to go through this on your own.
But it can still be helpful now, especially since you’re feeling the inner push to move forward in both activities and outreach to other people.
Dear Ellie: I’ve gone onto a religiously exclusive dating site with profiles and pictures. I recently had an anonymous exchange on that site, without real names or emails, but with a particular individual.
He and I made casual plans to meet in a public place. I’m an outgoing person but admit that I’m nervous about revealing personal information to this man who’s a stranger to me.
What are safe topics to discuss with him, with the hope of finding out real information?
New Online Dater
Since you both chose a religion-based dating site, that’s a common interest for starters. Raise it, but lightly at first since, within some religions are different levels of adherence. That way it becomes something to learn more about and discuss over time.
It’s a good sign that you both agreed to meet in a public place, rather than, say, meeting for drinks at night. It signals that neither of you are in a rush and prefer getting to know the other in a casual, open setting.
Asking about each other’s personal details doesn’t have to get invasive. Are you divorced? If yes, say so, but don’t go into great details until you’re both interested in where this new connection can lead.
On the other hand, acknowledging having kids (young or older) are a fair topic, if you have them. It references your lifestyle — presumably responsible and also enjoying some family life, even if living alone.
That’s enough gathered information for each to decide whether to meet again… e.g., in a week or two. Or you can email him. You were both “shopping,” so there shouldn’t be any embarrassment.
Feedback regarding the wife who kept her name (Jan. 18):
Reader: “I agonized over that decision years ago. Three weeks after my wedding, I kept my name, believing my husband was a liberal thinker.
“However, he was shocked. I then decided that I couldn’t stay married to a man who wouldn’t accept this.
“Fortunately, he did, but others felt free to weigh in: One male acquaintance asked my husband, “Can’t you control your wife?”
“When my first two sons were born, the law stated the child had to have the father’s last name. When my third child was born, the laws had changed to a choice.
“My husband and I agreed that our third son would have the same last name as his brothers. However, each son has my last name as their third given name.
“To the letter-writer: Broaden your daughter’s mind and become a confident female role model for her.”
Ellie’s tip of the day
After a partner’s death, loneliness can become stifling. Get proactive to connect with friends/activities.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.